Since his knee surgery eight years ago, John Gleason limits his runs to about 6 miles. Larry Wold runs an occasional marathon – the last two in New York and in Boston. Michael Boucher runs half marathons and is headed to Texas in January with some friends to do another.
Gleason, Wold and Boucher have other things in common. They’re all from Freeport. And they’re all baby boomers.
On weekends, they run together, with a few other guys who are about the same age. They might meet at one of their homes, at a school or some other place, depending on the course they’ve decided on for that day. Doing loops of 6 miles or more, these Freeport boomers are serious runners, all right. But to them, it’s as much about socialization. They might talk sports or argue about politics.
“The core group is probably eight to 10, if we have one of those magical days when everybody shows up,” Wold said. “It’s at least four to six. It gets orchestrated on a run-by-run basis.”
According to a recent article in the Washington Post, a new study by researchers at Humboldt State University and the University of Colorado at Boulder shows that running has a major positive effect on health. The study found that those who are 65 and older and who run at least 30 minutes three times a week experienced significantly less physical decline in their walking efficiency than those of similar age who simply walked for exercise.
The newspaper wrote: “The older joggers, they found, were 7 to 10 percent more efficient at walking than the older walkers. The study’s researchers admit they aren’t really sure why this is the case, but they said other studies have revealed that runners in general have healthier mitochondria, the organelles that act as the power plants every cell of every muscle and tissue in the human body. The importance of the findings, they added, is that a decline in walking ability ‘is a key predictor of morbidity in older adults.’”
The Freeport runners get more than exercise, too.
“It’s a blast,” Boucher said. “It’s a bunch of wise guys. The camaraderie and the chatting and the ribbing is what makes the days go by more easily. The social aspect is what propels the physical aspect of it.”’
“We all have favorite distances,” Gleason said. “I prefer the 5K and the 10K, and Michael likes the half marathon. Larry will run marathons.”
Joe Heathco and Brian Berkmeyer, both teachers at Freeport High School, are part of the group. Occasionally, Scott Samuelson, a famous husband (he is married to Joan Benoit Samuelson), joins them.
“Sometimes we go to the Samuelsons for pancakes for breakfast,” Wold said. “Scott runs with us more than Joan does. It’s good friends, having a good time.”
Wold, 55, is a banker. He usually runs 6-8 miles.
“I ramp it up if I’m training for a marathon,” Wold said.
Wold had run marathons at Disney World, St. Louis and Philadelphia until last year, when he decided to run the “big two” – Boston and New York.
“I finished in both with dignity,” he said “They were both just fabulous events to be part of. Going across the bridge into Queens, they’re 10 deep on the sidewalk, clapping and screaming. It’s not like you’re going to win the damn thing. In Boston, we ran through all these great neighborhoods.”
Wold has been running since his high school days in Colorado.
“I really started running to lose weight,” he said. “I was a very heavy kid in high school, around 215 pounds. It was successful, and I never looked back. I’m holding steady at around 155.”
Wold said he feels fortunate he is still able to exercise, enjoy the recreation of the running group, stay fit and add some value to his life.
“It gets harder all the time,” he said. “But I still love to run. We’re a diverse group economically, geographically and politically. We get into some heated discussions.”
Gleason, 57, also has been running since high school, when he lived in Wisconsin. A lawyer who works in Portland, he goes out at noontime and runs along the Eastern Promenade or Back Cove.
“I’ve run my whole life, but a little less often now,” Gleason said. “If I can do 25 miles a week, I’m pretty happy with that these days. I try to work some other things in during the winter, when the footing gets a little treacherous. I walk up Forest Avenue to the YMCA, and do laps in the pool. But it’s a lot more tedious than running, and a lot less conversational.”
Gleason also likes the “fun, politics and families” associated with the Freeport group runs. Sometimes they will run Wolfe’s Neck Road and Flying Point Road. Other times, it’s along Webster Road or a loop around South Freeport. They meet at 7:30 or 8 a.m.
“Certainly, the guys who I spend time with are into fitness,” he said. “It’s been a lot of fun with this group.”
Boucher, 57, is a landscape architect in town. An Old Town native, he has been in Freeport for 25 years, and began running 19 years ago.
“In a previous life I had been a mountain bike racer and a bicycle racer,” Boucher said. “Then we had kids, and I didn’t have time for that. Running is more efficient. I began running at noon, at work.”
Boucher has run half marathons in Freeport, Bar Harbor and Portland, and says he’s faring well, for his age group. He feels good both physically and mentally, and looks forward to running with the guys.
“It’s a misconception that people our age can’t do this, and have a good time at it,” he said. “We’re not as fast now, so our bodies don’t crave it as much. It’s more of a social addiction now.”
Larry Grard is a staff writer at Current Publishing.